I have one major complaint about this issue of Injustice, and it’s a big one: it nearly made me cry. Digital Firsts No. 23 & No. 24 (“Birthday” and “Razor’s Edge”) might be the darkest Bat-centered issues in the whole of the series and anyone out there clinging to any hope of salvaging the Man of Steel will find this difficult to stomach. It’s impossible to talk about this issue without major spoilers, so if you haven’t read this issue (and want to) you might not want to proceed.
FINAL WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
This issue answers the question as to how low Superman is willing to go in his pursuit of the Dark Knight (and the pit is, indeed, unfathomable). Many members of his own regime are questioning his methods (and motives), but it’s not enough to prevent a major character death in this issue (and one which will no doubt launch us full-force into the impending finale in a way I didn’t actually see coming). The fact that Brian Buccellato is still capable of surprise even this late in the game is a testament to how carefully this Year has been constructed. It’s also a testament to how powerful these characters are–and their relationship with one another (both adversarial and familial).
So last we saw, Superman and Alfred had a little contretemps; Alfred was awesome in his coolness and refused to let Superman rattle him. Superman, in turn, was rattled himself by Alfred’s defiance.
Now it’s Alfred’s (pretend) birthday and Bruce is checking in on him. It’s the last time they’ll talk in the world of Injustice and it’s bittersweet indeed.
So the colossal monster that is Superman, being now lacking in all morals as well as completely petty beyond comprehension, enlists Zsasz to “pressure” Alfred for Batman’s whereabouts. As if Alfred would ever give Bruce up. Worse still, he lies about this to the other Justice Leaguers. Sinestro has observed all of this from the prison where Zsasz was supposed to be incarcerated, but it’s unclear whether Sinestro is in on this bit of evil-doing of if he’s just pocketing away this information as useful grist for blackmail at a later date.
And at this point I’d like nothing more than to see Sinestro put Superman in a kryptonite coffin.
Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace, Alfred
Last issue, I said Alfred was the best superhero of the bunch and here he proves it. He protects Bruce and goes down fighting, but he does go down–hard. Maybe the worst thing about this comic is just how awful it is to see Alfred laid out in a pool of his own blood.
And this death is going to have reverberations across both factions, because Damian and Alfred remained close despite the enmity between him and Bruce. In fact we get to see just how well Damian takes this news (which is to say not well at all).
Marco Santucci, new to Injustice, does a phenomenal job with both the action sequences and the quieter talking moments. He has a particular skill with dramatic angles on otherwise relatively static scenes. An exchange between Catwoman, Batwoman, and Batgirl on a Gotham rooftop highlights the drear of a downpour, the menace of gargoyles, and the feelings of defeat and despair between the women, though he still ends the scene with a dramatic flash of lightning as the women all leap from the rooftop.
This could have just been a flat set of dialogue and simple “two-camera” shots, but Santucci makes it a mood moment. And Batman’s mostly silent pursuit of Zsasz is likewise dramatic not only for the rain and the high-speed Batmobile collision, but for the sheer menace of Batman himself, echoing those earlier gargoyles as he stalks his crawling prey before pulverizing him.
The scene is proof that action doesn’t need a lot of flash-bang to create awesome tension. Bruce has been pushed to that edge where Superman began his descent. Is he also going to topple?
The book ends on a cliffhanger, so we’ll need to pick up the next book to find out!
I predict Zsasz won’t make it beyond Digital First No. 25
With the recent announcement of a sequel game spreading its wings for launch, this Injustice world is likely to continue even after this Year, but what a Year it’s been so far! It has all the spry action and energy of Year One.
- You need Batman in action! Damian in a rage!
- Zsasz at his worst!
- And to remind yourself that Alfred Pennyworth is still the greatest superhero of all and you still know it.
Major character death is nothing new to Injustice, but some hurt worse than others and this one was painful as all-get-out. This world just got a lot bleaker for the loss of one of its wisest and most steadying characters, the death of whom may launch heroes on both sides of the regime into a grief-fueled holocaust. This is Buccellato at his best with art by Santucci that is both striking in its composition and powerful in its emotion.